Child custody.

Essay by sonyx September 2003

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Child Custody

The child custody case can be one of the most contentious forms of family law litigation. They are cases of he said, she said; he's bad, she's bad; he doesn't care about kids, she doesn't care about kids; he's not involved, she's not involved. So forth and so on. The bottom line is this: in order to determine primary conservatorship the court will look to the "best interests of the child." It is a "goody feely" term at best, but it is the standard.

Children need both parents. Except in cases where one parent is abusive or unable to provide proper care and supervision, children benefit when both Mom and Dad play major roles in their lives. Mediation helps parents figure out how to manage child care under a totally new set of circumstances.

Suggestion: Avoid the use of fighting words, such as "custody" and "visitation." These words set up a struggle overpossession of the children.

A more useful way for you to deal with the question of child care is to develop a parenting plan which describes the children's schedule with each of you. Your mediator will probably create this plan on a large, erasable wall calendar, asking for ideas as to when each of you would like to assume primary responsibility for the children's care.

Once a tentative parenting plan is created, your family can try it out for a month or two, before deciding whether or not to include it in your settlement agreement. If parts of the plan need fine-tuning, you can discuss proposed changes, then revise your plan until it works smoothly for all involved.

Some mediators permit older children to attend a mediation session to help with the parenting plan. If you decide to include your children, be sure that everyone understands...